Being inclusive at work this Christmas

Posted 6th December 2022
By Leona Barr-Jones

As the festive season draws near, it is crucial to think about how inclusive workplaces can celebrate Christmas to make sure that all employees, if they so choose, are included. Even those of your team members who do celebrate Christmas may experience conflicting emotions during this time. Others may not celebrate Christmas at all so don’t assume they do.

Mixed emotions arise during the festive season 

For many of us, the festive season can be an emotional roller coaster with highs and lows, much like the journey of a Christmas movie’s lead character.  We can feel the loss of loved ones no longer with us or far away, the stress of meeting commitments and expectations, the increased cost and demand of presents and creating the perfect Christmas dinner.

It can also be stressful to finish off work and projects alongside all the preparation, but it’s a rush to the promise of joy, light, and happiness of Christmas Day (or the hope that everything will be fine on the day itself).  So be kind and considerate and remember the extra pressures Christmas brings.

How to keep inclusion at the heart of your organisation at Christmas

🙏 Create a safe space for all religions and beliefs all year round.

When you are raised in a Christian country, Christmas is all around you. It is thought of as the “default” religious festival. The idea that not everyone observes Christmas or practises Christianity is not always considered.

Yet the fantastic cosmopolitan mix of our country means we have such a rich tapestry, from Islam to Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism, Buddhism, and beyond, is one of the beauties of living in the UK.

A company that wants to be truly inclusive should try to follow the calendar of religious festivities and events throughout the year and make sure that its team and customers feel their religion or belief is represented, acknowledged, and respected. So wish people a Happy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Saint Nicholas Day, Bhodi Day, Alban Arthan or Yule. 

Remember that not everyone will observe or celebrate Christmas in the same way that you wish to, but that doesn’t mean that people won’t value and anticipate some of the Christmas customs, such as putting up Christmas lights, sharing gifts or getting together with family or friends.

It’s important to refrain from assuming things about how people feel or celebrate Christmas.

🎄 Christmas parties are an extension of the workspace

The work Christmas parties are a favourite of the festive traditions here.

It is however, also important to remember that these parties are an extension of the workplace even after work hours.  Be aware that although certain work dynamics and colleague relationships are permitted to develop in a more relaxed setting, frequently involving alcohol, things don’t always go as planned! .. So stay away from the office photocopier and don’t try to snog the Boss! (unless you are married to them of course)

Even though you might not be able to accommodate everyone’s needs, the timing of these events should always be taken into account. For instance, some people might have childcare obligations and won’t be able to attend at certain times. So why not change it up each year from an evening to a lunch.

Be mindful of all dietary needs, especially those that are related to health, lifestyle, religion, or belief, as well as non-alcoholic options for team members who don’t drink. (Without making anyone feel marginalised for being a veggie or teetotal). 

Christmas parties are not for everyone as well; for some, being in a large group of people may not feel safe or comfortable and can even cause anxiety (especially in times of COVID). Be conscious of neuro-diverse colleagues who may struggle in large groups or with loud noises, or it could just be that the loss of a loved one makes a full on party unbearable.

Everyone should not feel obligated to attend these events, so you might want to think about more “low-key” celebration alternatives that might be appealing to team members who aren’t going “out out” to celebrate. Such as mince pies and mulled wine in the office ahead of the office party.

✨ Christmas is not a magical time for everyone

As was already mentioned, for some people, Christmas can be a very emotional time of year. For lots of different reasons.

As much as the Christmas decorations and Mariah Carey’s rendition of “All I Want For Christmas Is You” and seeing how long you can last before you are “Whamagedoned” with “Last Christmas”, this is also a time when we consider those who are away from their families and loved one, those that are serving overseas or have moved to escape war or persecution.  Or the memory of a loved one lost brought to mind at Christmas.

For many people, Christmas can be a challenging time of year for financial reasons as well as emotional ones.  The pressure for parents to spend money on this year’s toy or the latest iPhone or trendy trainers can be too much. Christmas turkey is not cheap and as the cost of living rises some may have to choose between the heating or a turkey.  

Therefore, during this time, take care to support the mental health and well being of your team members.

Directing people to mental health resources, interacting with mental health first responders, and enlisting the aid of employee networks can all be beneficial at this time. Make sure to motivate your team members to communicate with one another. Ask how they are doing and remember that if they answer “fine” people don’t always mean it! So always ask twice. 

❤️ Try and make Christmas magical for everyone

The festive season is a great time to promote inclusion in your company. It is an occasion for introspection, joy, and socialising.

Use this to emphasise your company’s dedication to offering a welcoming and inclusive workplace to all employees. It is an opportunity to share your organisation’s values with everyone, remind all of mental health and wellbeing support and to encourage teamwork among employees and give back to the community, to bring people together, and perhaps cheer up someone who is having a difficult time with the Christmas season.

It is important that we at Focus7 have a forward-thinking business which prioritises both the teams that deliver consistently excellent work and the partnerships that have helped us establish ourselves. 

Wishing everyone a happy festive season!

COO at Focus7

A successful business owner by age twenty, and with a varied 21-year military career including five years at the MoD on Whitehall, Leona has developed first class leadership and management skills. She has managed the successful implementation of major change programmes both in the UK and worldwide, including on behalf of Transport for London in collaboration with the 2012 Olympics. Leona is also IoD Director of the Year and a Fellow of IoD, CMI, InstLM.

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